Our freelancers in the spotlight! Today: Guy W.

Born in Belgium, Guy was bilingual from birth, so choosing translation as a career path was a no-brainer. For 40 years of his life, he’s remained faithful to it. Or almost, for this experienced linguist has another dream…

Picture of a man with his motorcycle

Hello Guy! Tell us a something about yourself, your childhood and your professional trajectory.

Born in Brussels, I’ve always been bilingual thanks to one parent who spoke French, the other Dutch. So it was written in the stars, as it were, that I should veer towards the humanities – literature and/or languages, first at secondary school, where I took my first steps in Goethe’s language, and then at ISTI, the Higher Institute of Translators and Interpreters in Brussels, where I gained a master’s in German and English in 1982. To help you place it in time, it would be another seven years before the fall of the Berlin Wall. Other than a brief detour into the world of banking, my professional life has been entirely devoted to translation (and advertising copywriting for a few years, but you have to make choices!). In turn freelancer, in charge of a team of translators at a large Brussels agency specialising in European affairs, owner of my own agency for more than twenty years, and now a freelancer again as a sole trader registered in Luxembourg, I’ve worn a good many hats. My nigh-on 40 years in the game have been transformed by its incredible technological evolution, from the typewriter with carbon paper to CAT and AI, via the telex, 8-inch disks in sleeves that barely fit in a briefcase, the Tandy 80, early IBM PCs and rotating-drum fax machines. I’m also the proud father of four grown-up cosmopolitan children who are themselves multilingual and, having flown the nest, are doing very well.

What languages do you work in and what kinds of texts do you translate for Apostroph?

I now mainly translate from German, a little less from English and even less from Dutch – all into French. My personal addiction – apart from great whisky – is corporate and institutional communication – what’s now called MarCom (marketing communication). Don’t ask me to translate an instruction manual or legal judgement: others, humans or robots, can do it better than me! Bearing in mind my long career, I’ve dipped my toe in all kinds of waters, but insurance, banking and finance are clearly my thing. Luckily, Apostroph has all these strings to its bow, too.

How long have you been with Apostroph?

Having worked with the company since 1995, you could say I’m part of the furniture. I’ll always remember the warmth of the welcome I got from Elisabeth Stofer and Wolfgang Krebs, two brilliant entrepreneurs with wonderful human qualities who were just starting out. I never could have imagined back then that this relationship would last so long, or that Apostroph would grow to such an extent – including internationally.

How did you come across Apostroph and its team of freelancers?

The beginning of the 1990s saw me working quite closely with a Bernese company called Ascom, which specialised in telecommunications equipment. Spotting the opportunities that the Swiss market offered, I started looking for other potential collaborations. It was on a visit to Switzerland to drum up business that I came across the little jewel back then that was Apostroph. The little pearl that’s now turned into a necklace…

Which aspects of your collaboration with Apostroph do you like the most?

Apostroph’s professionalism is undeniable; at the same time, the company exudes positivity and warmth at a personal level.

What’s the first word that comes to mind when you think of Apostroph? And why?

The word that instantly comes to my mind is “dynamism” – an indispensable quality in a world where technology, like it or not, is evolving at breakneck speed.

Any work-related incidents you care to tell us about during your translation career?

The errors of youth – including professional ones – tend to stick in the mind. At the very start of my career, I was translating a magazine published in Antwerp specialising in delicatessen products. In a Dutch article, thinking I had read “gatenkaas”, I translated the term “geitenkaas” (goat’s cheese) as “cheese with holes”! I wasn’t given any illustrations or mock-up, and of course there was no internet. The publisher was forgiving, the cheese producer less so. Since then, to parody (fabulist and poet) La Fontaine, I know that if “a lesson costs you a cheese”, then a cheese can also teach you a lesson!

Talk us through a typical working day.

Every sentence starts with a capital letter and ends with a full stop. By the same token, every translator’s working day begins with an emergency and ends with that same emergency! It really does…

If you could start all over again, would you follow the same career path?

To be honest, no! If I was starting from scratch today, I’d make my living as a travel writer on a motorcycle (my great passion) and I’d live (or at least try to live) from my YouTube posts by roaming the globe (motorbike adventure fans, check out e.g. Itchy Boots on YT to get your thrills). Sadly, this option wasn’t available to me when I was starting out! :-D

Do you have any advice for budding linguists or fellow Apostroph freelancers?

Although I have lots of experience under my belt, I wouldn’t claim to be a font of advice. All I would say is: do what you love. A profession should be a vocation before it’s a livelihood.

Thank you for talking us through your trajectory, Guy!

Want to know more about the freelancers in our pool? Was your entry into translation like Guy’s or was it quite different?

Send us an email to freelance@apostrophgroup.ch.

And keep an eye out for the interviews we’ll be conducting with our freelancers over the coming months.

Achieving goals together

  • A reliable partner

    It’s very easy to process jobs in our portal myFREELANCE and you can look forward to punctual, monthly payments.
  • Your link to Apostroph

    With Apostroph, you will have personal contact with our project management employees. They will answer your questions and help you process your orders.
  • The Apostroph community

    A lively exchange, exciting and entertaining contributions in the Language Lounge and continuing education opportunities are what make our community what it is.